by Girl Banker®
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Simple answer: university.
I get asked this question time and time again by prospective investment bankers. Should I choose this university or this other one? I know this university is lower in the league tables but the course that I have been accepted onto is more closely related to finance - that will make my chances of getting into an investment bank higher, right?
As I have mentioned before, investment banking is not a vocational career: you do not need to study finance in order to get into i-banking. Why? Because whatever desk you land on in an investment bank, the required knowledge will be so specific and so practical that your university will not have covered all or most of it. Importantly, it is all stuff that can be quickly learnt on the job.
Certainly within about 18 months you can go from knowing nothing about finance to being very proficient. Indeed, you can graduate with a finance-related degree and still struggle to learn all the on-the-job stuff. People who have come from a non-finance background frequently over-compensate with weekend work and post work-hours reading. Whatever your degree, even if it's finance-related, you should be doing extra reading after work (that is, if you get home at a 'decent' hour) and during weekends.
Why does the university matter so much?
Investment bankers ultimately want to hire the smartest people that they can. It impresses clients and the quality of work produced by smart people is higher. Like it or not, the university system is seen as a sorting ground: the crème de la crème get into the best universities. This is why investment banks tend to have hiring programs at the top universities and nothing at the lower tier ones.
If, unfortunately, you didn't manage to get into the best universities do not despair. Apply directly to investment banks and differentiate yourself with your extra curricular activities.
I created my investment banking blog in 2012 as soon as I resigned from i-banking & published my book, To Become An Investment Banker.
Initially published at girlbanker.com, all posts have now been subsumed into my personal website under katsonga.com/GirlBanker.
These blog posts make it as straight-forward for you as possible to get into a top tier investment bank.
I have 7 years of front office i-banking experience from Goldman Sachs and HSBC, in both classic IBD (corporate finance) and Derivatives (DCM / FICC).
I'm also a CFA survivor having passed all three levels on the first attempt within 18 months - the shortest time possible.